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PIXEL

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Educational Insights, 2-4 players, ages 6 and up, about 30 minutes; $19.99)

 

Over the last few years, Educational Insights has become a formidable presence in the game market. They distribute Blokus (featured in the Fall 2002 GA REPORT) and several Blokus spin-offs (Blokus Trigon, Travel Blokus) and have launched a series of strategy games under the title of StrataGems. One of the new releases in their StrataGems line offers a combination of color and play value to appeal to gamers of all ages: Pixel.pixel

Pixel is played on a large 8 x 8 grid with the four corner spaces blocked out and two “sliders” on the edges. There are 95 plastic circular game pieces (30 each in blue and orange, 20 yellow and 15 magenta). Each player takes one of set of pieces (blue and orange in a two player game, blue, orange and yellow when three are playing). One of each color is placed in the center four spaces to seed the board. The first player adjusts the sliders so the space that player’s piece occupies matches the intersection of the sliders. Now
the game begins.

On a turn, the active player moves ONE of the sliders and places one of his pieces at the new slider intersection he has created. A piece may only occupy an empty space. A space already claimed by a piece stays there for the duration of the game as no piece may be removed from the board. Play continues until one player has managed to meet the victory conditions. For four players, victory goes to the first player who gets three pieces in a row (horizontally, vertically OR diagonally). In a two or three player game, victory goes to the player who manages to construct a line of four.

Pixel shows some similarity to the Milton Bradley chestnut Connect 4. Like Connect 4, this is a game of positioning but the sliders add another layer of strategy. It also bears a resemblance to the Sid Sackson game Intersection. In Intersection, the intersection of two “pointers” identifies a piece on the board that is REMOVED from play. Of course, in Pixel, it is the opposite; the pointers/sliders determine where a piece is placed ONTO the board.pixel2

A nice design decision is integrating the sliders into the board itself (a simple but very practical idea) eliminating the danger of losing them. As a matter of fact, the whole presentation is well done as the board and pieces are sturdy plastic and the colors used easily differentiated, a quality not to be minimized in a world of games where blues and greens and reds and oranges far too often blend into a singular sameness that makes what should be easy game play difficult.

Strategically speaking, the goal of the game is simple and clear so young gameplayers have no trouble grasping what needs to be done and how to do it. The similarity to Connect 4 helps to make learning this game easier for younger folk by evoking a sense of familiarity. Older gamers with a more heightened sense of competitiveness should be aware that long range planning is difficult, particularly with four players. Too many things can happen to you and your position before your turn comes around again. With four, defense is particularly important; you need to concentrate on what the player who goes next can do and do what you can do block his move. And, like in other games that encourage you to create a line of pieces (such as the aforementioned, Connect 4, 5 Straight, Pente etc.), you are most likely to succeed if you can create a situation where there are TWO possible moves to create the necessary chain of pieces so that one block will not be enough to thwart your winning move.

Pixel is light and simple and, most importantly, entertaining. While targeted at the younger gamers in the crowd, the game presents enough of a challenge to maintain the interest of older players for a fun-filled 30 minutes of gaming. – – – – – – Herb Levy


 

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